NCW health districts join to create back-to-school guidelines

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Health districts from throughout North Central Washington have joined together to set guidelines for when it will be safe for schools to return to in-class instruction.

And that time is not now.

Chelan-Douglas, Grant, Okanogan and Kittitas county health officials agreed that no students should return until there are no more than 75 new cases per 100,000 in the county over the previous 14 days.

That figure is for grades K-5, with the rest of the students not being allowed to return until the county’s number has been lowered to 25 cases per 100,000 population

Most of the counties currently come nowhere near meeting that benchmark.

Okanogan County is more than 700 cases per 100,000; Douglas County just under 700 cases; Chelan County more than 500; Grant County more than 300; and Kittitas County just under 100 new cases over the past two weeks.

Many school districts in North Central Washington have already announced they will start the school year with online instruction only.

Those include the Wenatchee and Eastmont school districts.

When in-person instruction does resume, school districts must provide personal protective equipment to both staff and students, under the health districts’ guidelines.

School districts can petition their health district for exceptions to the standards.

“The public health agencies in all four jurisdictions cannot stress the importance enough to the residents of our communities the dire need to slow the spread of COVID-19 to our elders, students, friends, and families,” the districts said in a press release. “Each of them is depending on each of you to choose to protect your community, by limiting your social gatherings such as weddings, BBQs, birthday parties or celebration.”